Rapid Growth for Mozambique’s Lutherans

Mozambican women sing during a worship service.
Mozambican women sing during a worship service.

MOZAMBIQUE – Missions in Mozambique continue to bear fruit as the Lutheran Church of Concord in Mozambique (Igreja Luterana da Concórdia em Moçambique – ILCM) shares the good news of Jesus Christ.

In August 2015, the ILCM celebrated the ordination of its first graduating class of pastors—eight pastors to serve the young church body’s then ten churches. The celebration saw approximately 1,000 members converge on Villa de Sena, an event which drew considerable local and even national attention.

Amambo and Maviga

Among those discussing the event were Christians in Amambo, who heard the story from a local woman, who herself heard it from a truck driver. The Christian community in Amambo had been left on their own five years earlier, when the priest serving them left the village. Without pastoral care, the congregation remained isolated and alone, slowly dwindling as members fell away. The news of the ILCM ordination celebration encouraged the remaining congregation members to try to make contact with the Lutherans they had just learned of.

Two members travelled twenty kilometers by bike to a nearby town, where they found transportation by truck to Villa de Sena. In total, their trip took two days along rough roads in territory known to be frequented by lions. When they finally arrive in Villa de Sena, they were directed to Rev. Manuel Jambo, President of the ILCM, who welcomed them into his home. After a night of conversation they joined President Jambo and Rev. Mateus Sifa at the local church for worship. They returned to Amambo with the good news that the Lutherans had agreed to visit them to begin a course of instruction.

Rev. Winterle and pastors of the Lutheran Church of Concord in Mozambique visit the congregation in Amambo.
Rev. Winterle and pastors of the Lutheran Church of Concord in Mozambique visit the congregation in Amambo.

Within a few weeks, the newly ordained pastors from the ILCM did indeed visit. And on September 6, 2015, members, pastors, and visitors dedicated the Lutheran Church of Amambo. Just three weeks later, they dedicated another congregation fifty kilometers away in Maviga, as the members of Amambo shared the clear Gospel message they were now receiving.

Nine months later, international partners had the opportunity to visit the Amambo congregation. Rev. Carlos Winterle, a Brazilian pastor serving the Free Evangelical Lutheran Synod in South Africa (FELSISA) with long-time involvement in the mission in Mozambique, and Rev. Shauen Trump, Area Director for Eastern and Southern Africa for The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS), joined eight local pastors in visiting the community. 110 members were on hand to welcome them. Knowing that the guests would be unable to visit Maviga on the same trip, the congregation there also sent a delegation to welcome them as well—twenty-one representatives who travelled the fourteen-hour journey by foot.

Cado

Women and children in Cado sing.
Women and children in Cado sing.

The village of Cado similarly found themselves interested in learning more about Lutherans—though their reasons for doing so are somewhat different. The Christians of Cado paid dearly for pastoral services, struggling under the tyranny of a pastor who mandated a substantial cash payment for each visit. It was not until villagers started going to town, some forty-five kilometers away, to find a market for their goods that they realized not all churches operate in the same way.

When the possibility of life together under a different model came to light, the congregation took action to learn more. They sent out two youth by bicycle to Villa de Sena to make inquiries of the churches there—and once they arrived they met President Jambo and Rev. Sifa. President Jambo hosted the two Cado villagers in his home, where they discussed the theology of stewardship, offerings, and matters of financial administration in the church. Through these discussions, President Jambo was able to clearly share the Gospel, and explain the church’s focus on Word and Sacraments.

That Sunday, the two villagers attended São Paulo Lutheran Church in Villa de Sena, and got to see these focuses in practice. By the end of the service, their path was clear. They explained to the church members in Villa de Sena that they were sent out to find a parent church body for their congregation, and that they had been convicted that the Lutheran church was the one they had come to find. The Cado villagers requested the blessing of the São Paulo congregation to send a pastor to support a Lutheran church in Cado.

A few weeks later, three Lutheran pastors traveled to visit the people of Cado. The first Lutheran service was attended by fifty villagers meeting under a tree. Within a year, the congregation had grown to eighty.

Cado-Nhachiva

The congregation in Nhachiva assembles.
The congregation in Nhachiva assembles.

It was in ministering to the community of Cado that another mission opportunity presented itself. Rev. Sifa was traveling the forty-five kilometer trip home from Cado—a trip that would be taxing in the best of circumstances, and even more so on one of Africa’s typical heavy one-speed bicycles on rough dirt roads. About ten kilometers into the trip, Rev. Sifa stopped at a trading centre for rest and a refreshment. While there, a teacher noted his clerical collar and asked if he were a priest. Rev. Sifa explained he was a pastor of the Lutheran Church, and they began to discuss the history and doctrine of Lutheranism. Interested in what the pastor had to say, the teacher asked him to consider starting a church in his village of Cado-Nhachiva.

Several weeks later, Rev. Sifa was on his way to Cado again. On the way he found the teacher and several other villagers waiting for him in Cado-Nhachiva. Rev. Sifa spoke with them and invited to travel with him to the church in Cado. They went. Not much later, Cado-Nhachiva held its first worship service, with 80 people attending. Today 150 members regularly attend services where the Gospel is clearly proclaimed.

Suero

The clarity of the Gospel preaching done by Lutherans is making an impact elsewhere in Mozambique too. In Chemba, a local community radio station host learned that firsthand. In Chemba, as in communities across Mozambique, the radio station gives regular airtime to local pastors. But when Lutheran pastor Rev. Julio Castomo had his first moment on air, the host was taken aback by his message. It was so different from the other preachers who came for their five-minute radio time.

After the broadcast, the host spoke extensively with Rev. Castomo about his message and about the church. The next day, he came to visit the pastor in his home. And that Sunday, he came to church to learn more. Immediately afterwards, he travelled to his home village of Suero to tell his extended family about the love of Christ. They asked him to go back to Chemba, collect Rev. Castomo, and bring him to tell them himself. After a few evangelistic visits, the people of Suero organized a church and invited Rev. Castomo to come. The first week 60 people attended. The next week there were 80.

And Others

Preaching in one of the new congregations near Kapasseni.
Preaching in one of the new congregations near Kapasseni.

The ILCM has welcomed other churches too. Rev. Rui Jalene Souza of Kapasseni has seen his evangelistic visits to nearby villages bear fruit, with four new congregations planted in the area. And an independent congregation in Mutarara, hearing of the ILCM’s work, recently sent two representatives forty kilometers to Villa de Sena looking for a church body with substance. The dedication of a Lutheran congregation in Mutarara is expected in the near future. Work continues in other areas as well.

There is a burning desire in Mozambique for clear Gospel preaching, both among the unchurched and those lacking pastoral care. The Lutheran Church of Concord in Mozambique is meeting that need, and they are supported in that work by faithful international partners. The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Brazil (IELB); the Free Evangelical Lutheran Synod in South Africa (FELSISA); The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS); The Mission of the Lutheran Churches (Bleckmarer Mission) of the Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church of Germany (SELK); and Redeemer Lutheran Church (Victoria, B.C., Canada) have all signed a memorandum of understanding with the pastors of the Lutheran Church of Concord in Mozambique to provide guidance to ongoing mission work in the country.

Lutheran missions in Mozambique grew out of the work of now retired Lutheran Church–Canada (LCC) pastor Rev. Joseph Alfazema and his wife Perpetua. Their work resulted in the creation of the Kapasseni Project, a Canadian organization that helped lead to the creation of a Mozambican Lutheran church body.

IELB, FELSISA, LCC, SELK, and the LCMS are all member churches of the International Lutheran Council, a global association of confessional Lutheran church bodies.

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The above article incorporates reporting by Rev. Shauen Trump based on translation by Rev. Winterle. Photos are by them, Carlotta C. Thies, Rony Marquardt, and Mateus Sifa.

Philippine Lutherans sign protocol agreement with Missouri Synod

LCP President Antonio Reyes and LCMS President Matthew Harrison sign the protocol agreement.
LCP President Antonio Reyes and LCMS President Matthew Harrison sign the protocol agreement.

USA – On June 8, the Lutheran Church of the Philippines (LCP) and The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) signed a protocol agreement during a meeting in St. Louis, Missouri.

The agreement outlines how the two church bodies will work together going forward in such areas as higher education (theological education), cooperation in mission work, communications, and other programs. It further highlights that the basis for fellowship between the two churches is their joint witness to the authority of Holy Scripture and subscription to the Book of Concord.

The protocol agreement was signed by LCP President Antonio Reyes and LCMS President Matthew Harrison, as well as LCP Vice President Felipe Ehican and LCMS Director of Church Relations Al Collver.

The Lutheran Church of the Philippines has approximately 25,000 members. The LCMS has approximately two million members. Both churches are members of the International Lutheran Council, a global association of confessional Lutheran churches.

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LCMS reelects Matthew Harrison

President Matthew C. Harrison (Photo: LCMS Communications).
President Matthew Harrison (Photo: LCMS Communications).

USA – The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) has announced that Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison has been reelected as President.

President Harrison was elected on the first ballot, receiving 56.96 percent of the votes cast. This is President Harrison’s third term, having first been elected to serve as president of the LCMS in 2010.

Also nominated were Rev. Dr. Dale A. Meyer and Rev. Dr. David P.E. Maier, who received 36.66 percent and 6.38 percent of the votes respectively.

News of President Harrison’s reelection comes several weeks before the LCMS holds its 2016 national convention. In the LCMS, presidential elections are held four weeks in advance of the national convention. Voting delegates from each congregation in the synod were invited to vote electronically from June 11-14, and the results of the election were made public June 15.

Delegates will gather in Milwaukee at the Wisconsin Center for the 66th convention of the LCMS from July 9-14, 2016. Elections for Vice-Presidents and other synodical officers will take place during the convention.

The LCMS, an American church body with more than two million members, is a member of the International Lutheran Council, a global association of confessional Lutheran churches.
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LCMS, WELS, and ELS leaders report significant doctrinal agreement

wels-els-lcms

USA – The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS), the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS), and the Evangelical Lutheran Synod (ELS) have released a report noting significant doctrinal agreement between the three synods, following three years of informal dialogue.

Following a fourth meeting held December 2, 2015, leaders of the three synods agreed to the publication of A Report on the Meetings of ELS, LCMS, and WELS Leaders 2012-2015. Among the representatives present for the event were LCMS President Matthew C. Harrison, WELS President Mark Schroeder, and ELS President John A. Moldstad.

Primary among the contents of the report is an assessment of the doctrinal agreement already shared by the three synods. “We agree that the Bible is the inspired, inerrant Word of God and the only source of authority for doctrine and practice,” the report notes. “We agree that the chief message of the Bible is justification by grace through faith in the merits of Jesus Christ, and that the entire Bible is Christ-centered. All of us also confess without reservation (quia) that the Lutheran Confessions are a correct exposition of the Holy Scriptures.”

The LCMS previously enjoyed fellowship together with the ELS and the WELS until 1955 and 1961, the document notes, before breaking fellowship as a result of doctrinal controversies in the LCMS that peaked in the 1970s. Today, the three synods share such a level of doctrinal agreement that there is a strong desire for further discussion “with the hope that we may be able to come to full agreement under the guidance and blessing of the Holy Spirit.” They note, however, that a number of issues still need to be resolved, writing, “All of us are convinced that church fellowship requires complete agreement in doctrine.”

“It has been a joy to meet with and talk with faithful Lutherans from the WELS and ELS,” said Rev. Dr. Albert B. Collver III, Director of LCMS Church Relations. “We pray that the Lord would continue to bless this endeavor and, Deo volente [God willing], grant a restoration of fellowship between the three synods at some point in the future.”

Read the full report here.

The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod is a member church of the International Lutheran Council and has approximately 2.1 million members. The Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (approximately 400 thousand members) and the Evangelical Lutheran Synod (approximately 20 thousand members) are American churches in full-fellowship with each other. WELS and ELS are member churches of the Confessional Evangelical Lutheran Conference.

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LCMS and NALC representatives meet in St. Louis

(Back Row Left to Right): Dr. Joel Lehenbauer (LCMS), Bishop John Bradosky (NALC), Rev. Larry Vogel (LCMS). (Front Row Left to Right): Rev. John Pless (LCMS), Dr. Albert Collver (LCMS), Rev. Mark Chavez (NALC), Rev. Paull Spring (NALC), Rev. David Wendel (NALC)
(Back Row Left to Right): Dr. Joel Lehenbauer (LCMS), Bishop John Bradosky (NALC), Rev. Larry Vogel (LCMS). (Front Row Left to Right): Rev. John Pless (LCMS), Dr. Albert Collver (LCMS), Rev. Mark Chavez (NALC), Rev. Paull Spring (NALC), Rev. David Wendel (NALC)

USA – Representatives of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod and the North American Lutheran Church met September 9-10, 2015 in St. Louis, Missouri to continue their bi-annual consultations. The series of meetings began December 2011, at the invitation of President Matthew Harrison of the LCMS as the church bodies seek greater understanding of the other church, ways that there may be cooperation in externals, and be mutually supportive, in spite of differences that exist. A representative of Lutheran Church–Canada normally participates in the meetings as well.

This consultation was the second meeting focusing on Holy Scripture. Four questions were presented and discussed: How did the Bible get here? What kind of book is the Bible? Which method is most suitable for interpreting the Bible? What is the proper use of the Bible?

In addition to presentation of church body reports, other areas of common concern were discussed, including the recent Supreme Court Obergefell decision in the United States, the challenge to marriage in North America, and the response to the persecution of Christians today.

The representatives will meet again in March 2016.

Representing the LCMS were the Rev. Dr. Albert Collver, Director of Church Relations-Assistant to the President; the Rev. Dr. Joel Lehenbauer, Executive Director of the Commission on Theology and Church Relations; the Rev. John Pless, Assistant Professor of Pastoral Ministry and Missions at Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne; the Rev. Larry Vogel, Associate Director of the Commission on Theology and Church Relations.

Representing the NALC were the Rev. John Bradosky, Bishop; the Rev. Paull Spring, Bishop Emeritus; the Rev. Mark Chavez, General Secretary; the Rev. Dr. David Wendel, Assistant to the Bishop for Ministry and Ecumenism.

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Norwegian Lutheran Mission holds meetings with LCMS/ILC

Norwegian Lutheran Mission representatives Hjalmar Bø and Øyvind Åsland pose with ILC/LCMS representative Albert Collver at recent meetings in St. Louis, Missouri.
Norwegian Lutheran Mission representatives Hjalmar Bø and Øyvind Åsland pose with ILC/LCMS representative Albert Collver at recent meetings in St. Louis, Missouri.

ST. LOUIS, MISSOURI – On August 19, 2015, Øyvin Åsland, Executive Director of the Norwegian Lutheran Mission (NLM), and Hjalmar Bø, Director NLM International Department, came to St. Louis, Missouri to visit with The Lutheran Church–Church Missouri Synod and to learn more about the International Lutheran Council (ILC).

The Norwegian Lutheran Mission (NLM) was formed in 1891 as Det Norske Lutherske Kinamisjonsforbund (the Norwegian Lutheran Federation for Mission in China). The NLM is connected to the revival movements in Norway and adheres to the Holy Scriptures, the Ecumenical Creeds, the Augsburg Confession, and Luther’s Small and Large Catechisms. Their slogan is “The World for Christ.” It has approximately 2,500 chapters across Norway and runs nearly 30 schools from the elementary to college-levels. It further operates more than 40 kindergartens and community centers across the country.

The Norwegian Lutheran Mission operates in several of the same countries where the LCMS also operates. For instance, the Norwegian Lutheran Missionaries established Tabor Evangelical College in Ethiopia. Currently, some of Tabor Evangelical College’s faculty are pursuing doctoral studies through the LCMS’ Concordia Seminary in Saint Louis. Missionaries from the NLM have also had frequent contact with LCMS missionaries in places such as Hong Kong, Taiwan, Latin America, and Africa. Although there have been many informal contacts through the years, this is the first time that the Norwegian Lutheran Mission has sought official contacts with the Missouri Synod and with the International Lutheran Council.

The Norwegian Lutheran Mission has been seeking to plant Lutheran churches around the world since 1891 (three years before the LCMS itself began international mission work). Historically, the NLM has been a movement within, but independent of, the Church of Norway. It has, for example, opposed certain actions of the Church of Norway (such as the ordination of women). But the Norwegian Lutheran Mission recently voted to establish its own “religious communities” by a vote of 548 in favor to 121 against.

This vote marks a shift for the NLM, as it moves from being a mission agency inside the Church of Norway to a church in its own rite. As such, the NLM has begun to wrestle with the implications of this decision, including how it will relate to other churches in the world and what sorts of relationships it will seek.

Rev. Dr. Albert Collver (LCMS Director of Church Relations and ILC Executive Assistant) noted that the first formal visit with the Norwegian Lutheran Mission went well, and that members are looking forward to more visits in the future.

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First graduating class of pastors for Mozambican Lutherans

Mozambique’s newly ordained pastors pose with TEE instructors Rev. Carlos Winterle (back left) and Rev. André Plamer (back right).
Mozambique’s newly ordained pastors pose with TEE instructors Rev. Carlos Winterle (back left) and Rev. André Plamer (back right).

MOZAMBIQUE – Mozambican Lutherans celebrated a major milestone on August 9, 2015, as Concordia Lutheran Church– Mozambique celebrated its first graduating class of eight pastors. The event drew significant local and national attention: more than a thousand people gathered in the Vila de Sena for the ordinations, including local dignitaries, and national television gave ten minutes of coverage to the event. Special church dignitaries in attendance included President Egon Kopereck of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Brazil (IELB) and Bishop Dieter Reinstorf of the Free Evangelical Lutheran Synod in South Africa (FELSISA).

More than a thousand people march through the Vila de Sena on the way to the ordination of Mozambique’s first Lutheran pastors.
More than a thousand people march through the Vila de Sena on the way to the ordination of Mozambique’s first Lutheran pastors.

The CLCM is a young church body, and prior to this year’s graduating class had no pastors of its own. Instead, ministry in the region was overseen by those studying for by the. In 2014, the students received certification as deacons in preparation for their 2015 ordinations. Their ordination marks the end of five years of study through the Theological Education by Extension (TEE) program, an initiative of the IELB.

More than a thousand people march through the Vila de Sena on the way to the ordination of Mozambique’s first Lutheran pastors.
More than a thousand people march through the Vila de Sena on the way to the ordination of Mozambique’s first Lutheran pastors.

The ordination of the new pastors could not come soon enough, as the MLC continues to grow quickly (visiting professors in the TEE program were sometimes called on to conduct hundreds of baptisms at a time). Already a new class of students is beginning studies through the TEE program—and the class size has grown to fifteen.

In 2014, mission developments in Mozambique took another step forward as partners in the region signed a new Memorandum of Understanding on the TEE program. Signatories included the IELB, the current TEE students, the Kuwangisana Organization, the Kapasseni Project, FELSISA, and The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS). The MOU calls for the construction of a permanent seminary building: the Concordia Lutheran Center.

Lutheran missions in Mozambique grew out of the work of retired Lutheran Church–Canada (LCC) pastor Rev. Joseph Alfazema and his wife Perpetua. Their work resulted in the creation of the Kapasseni Project, an LCC listed service organization that continues to support missions in Mozambique.

LCC, FELSISA, the LCMS, and IELB are all member churches of the International Lutheran Council.

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New Presiding Bishop for Tanzanian Lutherans

Outgoing Presiding Bishop Alex Malasusa waves with Bishop Elect Frederick Shoo after the latter’s election to serve as head of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Tanzania.
Outgoing Presiding Bishop Alex Malasusa waves with Bishop Elect Frederick Shoo after the latter’s election to serve as head of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Tanzania.

TANZANIA – On August 16, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania (ELCT) elected a new Presiding Bishop at its 19th Church Assembly at Makumira University near Arusha. Rev. Dr. Frederick Onael Shoo was elected to a four-year term as head of the ELCT.

Prior to his election, Bishop Elect Shoo served as bishop of the ELCT’s Northern Diocese. He earned the moniker “the tree bishop” due to his work planting trees to help preserve the shrinking glaciers of Kilimanjaro. PBS featured this work in a 2012 report. Bishop Shoo was first ordained for pastoral ministry in 1986.

Bishop Shoo succeeds Bishop Alex Gehaz Malalusa, who has retired after completing two four-year terms as head of the ELCT.

The ELCT is the world’s second largest Lutheran church body, with a growing membership of more than 6.5 million members as of 2014. The church body is affiliated with the Lutheran World Federation. A number of the ELCT’s bishops have in recent years also developed friendly relations with The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS), a member church of the International Lutheran Council.

One such area of cooperation has been the ELCT’s Bishop Emmanuel Makala Training Center in northern Tanzania. The Center has been a joint venture of the ELCT’s South-East of Lake Victoria Diocese and the LCMS, with the LCMS providing financial support for the training program as well as providing theological professors. That partnership culminated in March with the first graduating class of the Center, as 21 new pastoral candidates were ordained and seven deaconesses commissioned for service in the ELCT.

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Responding to Ebola in West Africa

Bishop Amos Bolay.
Bishop Amos Bolay at the LCMS 2013 convention. (Photo: LCMS Communications.)

WEST AFRICA – The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) notes that partnerships that began with the Lutheran Malaria Initiative (LMI) are now making the response to West Africa’s Ebola crisis easier—an unanticipated benefit of the project.

“With our experience in doing the Lutheran Malaria Initiative, we had no problem organizing an Ebola-relief project to assist the church and people of Liberia,” said Bishop Amos Bolay of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Liberia (ELCL). “With a good structure in place, you can easily do other new projects.”

Bishop Bolay said that, with support from the LCMS and Lutheran World Relief (LWR), the ELCL is readily able to provide relief supplies to churches, hospitals and quarantine centers in Liberia in response to the crisis.

“When people are being quarantined, the next problem becomes the need for food. And so, we quickly responded with large supplies of food, especially rice and oil, along with chlorine and buckets for hand-washing as prevention against the deadly Ebola epidemic,” he said.

Partnerships with governmental and nongovernmental agencies also are essential to responding to Ebola. Such partnerships have been established faster than normal through LMI.

“One of our goals in helping our partner churches build capacity is accessing additional funding once all of the LMI funds have been depleted,” said Martha Mitkos, the LCMS’ campaign director for the Lutheran Malaria Initiative, a cooperative project of the LCMS and LWR. “In order to do that, we must help [partner churches] establish relationships with their local governments and organizations like The Global Fund, The President’s Malaria Initiative and USAID. It can take years for these relationships to develop. However, things have moved really fast in Liberia because of the connections and expertise of our local consultant, Dr. Mosoka Fallah.”

Mitkos said Fallah is an epidemiologist and public health specialist with extensive knowledge and expertise in the areas of malaria, Ebola, and other endemic health issues affecting developing nations. She said Fallah also used his expertise to help the ELCL obtain a seat with Liberia’s National Malaria Steering Committee to assist in determining how malaria funds are spent in the country.

“Because of the trust that has been established through LMI in the local communities in and around Monrovia, Liberia, the ELCL has been able to provide Ebola relief under the same umbrella and through the same volunteers that serve LMI,” said Mitkos. They have been able to access communities where LMI is currently working to educate and help end malaria deaths. Ultimately, the trust and relationship building afforded through the church’s gifts to LMI have helped the people of Liberia to see the church as a place of hope with the crucial goal of [proclaiming] the life-saving Gospel of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection for our sins.

Nurturing long-term partnerships is crucial to the future success of both LMI and the response to Ebola, said Tracy Quaethem, project coordinator for the LCMS Office of National Mission.

“The way that the LMI is structured provides a great match for Ebola [response] efforts in West Africa,” said Quaethem. “Rather than ‘outsiders’ who come in and then are quickly gone again, LMI focuses on those who have vested, caring bonds within the community.”

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Liberia was founded in 2009 following the merger of four separate Lutheran groups in Liberia. The church has 350 congregations, 30 schools, and 11,000 members. It established altar and pulpit fellowship with The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod in 2012, with the LCMS ratifying that agreement at its 2013 national convention. The LCMS has more than 2.3 million members and is part of the International Lutheran Council, a global association of confessional Lutheran churches.

Earlier this year The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod announced a number of initiatives to help combat the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. The church has provided financial support to Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone. In November the church also announced travel scholarships for medical personnel who wish to support African partners in treating Ebola.

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Adapted from a LCMS Reporter article.

EECMY and LCMS sign Revised Extended Working Partnership Agreement

President Edosa and Dr. Collver sign the new
President Wakseyoum Idosa and Rev. Dr. Albert Collver sign a revised working partnership agreement between the EECMY and the LCMS, while other participants in the discussions look on.

ETHIOPIA – Representatives and leaders from the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus (EECMY) and The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) met November 10-13 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia at the Mekane Yesus Seminary, the EECMY headquarters, and the Gudina Tumsa Wholistic Training Center to discuss the relationship between the two church bodies, revise an extended working agreement, and make plans to strengthen theological education within the Mekane Yesus Church by creating a relationship between the church bodies’ seminaries.

This round of discussions was the result of a January 2014 meeting in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, between LCMS President Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison and Rev. Dr. Wakseyoum Idosa, president of the EECMY.

The recent meeting for discussions included the following for the EECMY: President Idosa; General Secretary Rev. Dr. Berhanu Ofgaa; and Rev. Yonas Yigezu, director of Mission and Theology. For the LCMS, the discussions included Rev. Dr. Albert B. Collver, LCMS director of Church Relations and Regional Operations; Rev. Dr. Lawrence R. Rast, chairman of the Commission on Theology and Church Relations (CTCR) and president of Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Indiana; Rev. Dr. Joel Lehenbauer, CTCR Executive Director; and Rev. Dr. Tilahun Mendedo, president of Concordia University in Selma, Alabama.

The discussion team reviewed the history of the EECMY, including the history of the EECMY’s mission partners, and the history of the LCMS. The review of this history helped the discussion team recognize how the EECMY and the LCMS could better relate to one another. The team reviewed the past work between the EECMY and the LCMS and discussed ways to enhance that working relationship. The team also examined the commitment each church holds to the Holy Scriptures and the Lutheran Confessional documents.

Article 2 of the EECMY constitution states the following: “The Holy Scriptures of the Old and the New Testaments are the Holy Word of God and the only source and infallible norm of all Church doctrine and practice; the Church adheres to the Apostles’ Creed, the Nicene Creed, and the Athanasian Creed … ; the Church sees in the Unaltered Augsburg Confession, which was worded by the Church Reformers, as well as in Luther’s Catechisms, a pure exposition of the Word of God.”

Article 2 of the LCMS constitution states: “The Synod, and every member of Synod, accepts without reservation: The Scriptures of the Old and the New Testament as the written Word of God and the only rule and norm of faith and of practice; All the Symbolical Books of the Evangelical Lutheran Church as a true and unadulterated statement and exposition of the Word of God.”

The representatives agreed that their two churches will respect each other’s constitution, bylaws, and policies as doctrinal discussions and cooperative efforts continue. They also discussed areas where the two churches could work together, such as with theological education and various human care projects.

After the discussions, the delegates of the EECMY and LCMS team signed a working partnership agreement. The agreement emphasizes the ongoing need for the two churches to understand one another better and to identify the challenges that are common and unique to both churches.  While formal pulpit and altar fellowship remains a goal, both churches are committed to continuing their current shared efforts, as well as regular and ongoing discussions of theology and practice.

While formal pulpit and altar fellowship remains a goal, both churches are committed to continuing their current shared efforts, as well as regular and ongoing discussions of theology and practice.

This partner agreement is a revision of the 2010 agreement between the Department of Mission and Theology of the EECMY and the World Mission Department of the LCMS. The revised agreement signed in Addis Ababa was between the two church bodies rather than between units within the church bodies. This demonstrates increased commitment between the EECMY and LCMS to become closer to one another.

EECMY and LCMS representatives, meeting on the campus of Mekane Yesus Seminary in Addis Ababa, also discussed how they might increase their work together in the area of theological education. EECMY participants included President Wakseyoum, General Sectretary Berhanu, the Mekane Yesus Seminary (MYS) President Rev. Dr. Belay Guta, along with many of the seminary’s faculty members. LCMS participants included Drs. Collver and Rast (President of Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne), along with Drs. Jeffrey Kloha and William Schumacher, respectively provost and chairman of Concordia Seminary, Saint Louis. The parties agreed to work closely together toward the accreditation of MYS, particularly in the areas of curriculum review and library enhancement.

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About The Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus (EECMY)
The EECMY was formed in 1959 as various synods started by several different mission societies merged into one church. In the 1970s the EECMY developed the theme, “Serving the Whole Person,” now often quoted and referred to as wholistic ministry. This has been a guiding principle for all evangelistic, development, and social ministry of the church. Beginning with 20,000 members in 1959, the EECMY has grown to 6.7 million members. Learn more at http://www.eecmy.org.

About The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod
The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod is a biblical, confessional, witness-oriented Christian denomination with 2.3 million members – 600,000 households – in 6,200 congregations. Through acts of witness and mercy, the church carries out its mission worldwide to make known the love of Jesus Christ. It is a member of the International Lutheran Council. Learn more at http://www.lcms.org.